Hootsuite US immigration ICE contract whistleblower fired

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Comments by Sanwar Ali:

This is perhaps not surprising.  Perhaps in a way Ms Anderson did Hootsuite a favour.  The ICE deal would most likely have come out eventually.  This has probably saved Hootsuite some embarrassment in the longer term.

Canadian social media giant Hootsuite has fired an employee that criticized a contract it had signed with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Last month, Workpermit.com reported how Sam Anderson blew the whistle on Hootsuite’s deal with ICE, with the former employee blasting the company on Twitter.

Hootsuite, based in Vancouver, Canada, initially denied any association with ICE only for company spokeswoman, Melanie Gaboriault, to confirm that Hootsuite will ‘no longer continue its partnership with ICE.’

Following Ms Anderson’s tweets, Gaboriault said: “As a business, we do not discuss specific customer deals, however, because of the sensitivity in this particular case, I can confirm that Hootsuite is not entering into a deal with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

Ms Anderson confirms termination of contract

Ms Anderson claims that her tweets led to her dismissal from Hootsuite, which she confirmed on Twitter recently, posting: “I am no longer employed by Hootsuite. I’m not sure what I can and can’t say about my departure, but I assume it’s fair to say (and also probably obvious) that it was not my decision to leave.”

The former Hootsuite employee publicly condemned the company and accused them of putting ‘profits ahead of people’, after it emerged that the social media and marketing tech start-up had agreed a three-year contract with ICE worth a reported $1.5 million.

Since it was founded in 2003, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been embroiled in a series of controversies. Most recently, ICE has come under fire for carrying out huge enforcement operations targeting undocumented migrants during Trump’s presidency.

The agency is also currently under investigation amid reports of forced hysterectomies being carried out in an ICE ‘concentration camp’ in Georgia state.

On September 23, Ms Anderson took to Twitter to expose Hootsuite’s deal with ICE. She posted: “Been debating talking about this publicly because I don’t want to get fired, but it seems like the cat’s already out of the bag so whatever: yesterday Hootsuite signed a three-year deal with ICE. Over 100 employees have been extremely vocal in their opposition to this deal.”

Eagerly accepting money

Ms Anderson expressed her bewilderment at her employers ‘eagerly accepting money from an organization that is allegedly subjecting its female detainees to forced hysterectomies, that has a documented history of locking children in cages, that tears families apart and destroys lives. It’s devastating and disgusting in a way that I can’t effectively put into words.’

The former Hootsuite employee was further bemused to find out that the deal had been given the go ahead by the Hootsuite hierarchy, despite members of the company’s support team based in Mexico sharing their personal experiences of how they had been ‘targeted or harassed’ by ICE.

Hootsuite pulled out of deal

However, just a day after Ms Anderson’s tweets and amid a public backlash, Hootsuite pulled out of the deal.

On September 24, Hootsuite CEO Tom Keiser issued a statement saying: “I, and the rest of the management team, share the concerns our people have expressed. As a result, we have decided not to proceed with the deal with ICE.”

Despite pulling out of the contract, question marks remain over whether Hootsuite has performed any work with ICE and will continue to do so outside of the cancelled contract.

On September 18, third-party company FCN was reportedly awarded a $508,832 contract to supply ICE with licenses to use Hootsuite’s software. The Vancouver-based firm is also known to have held contracts with other US federal agencies.

Anderson job concerns

During her initial Twitter rant, Ms Anderson expressed concerns about her job when exposing the Hootsuite-ICE deal and just over two weeks later, she was formally relieved of her role and has not spoken to the media regarding the end of her employment.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Hootsuite said that the company would not be disclosing the details surrounding Anderson’s departure, saying: “To protect privacy, we do not discuss details related to any employee status. Hootsuite supports differences of thought and opinion within the company and firmly believes in engaging dialogue.”

“We deeply value the trust of our employees, partners and customers. To that end we must be unequivocal in upholding our confidentiality obligations,” the spokesperson said.

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